We try to squeeze at least one hike in every year when we go to the Smoky Mountains, so I’m sharing five of our favorites with you.
Rainbow Falls. This trail is rated as moderate in difficulty, however you are climbing up most of the way to the falls. That just means the way down is easier, right?! It is 5.4 miles round trip and takes between 3-5 hours to complete. You will likely hear water flowing several times and think you’re close. Just be patient… you will get there. About half way to the actual Rainbow Falls, there is a smaller, but very pretty, waterfall that is worth taking a break and snapping some pics. If it is a sunny day and you are lucky when you make it to the falls, you may get to see a rainbow created by the mist. Be careful on the rocks around the falls, they do get very slippery due to all the mist.
Grotto Falls. Another trail rated moderate in difficulty. I would say that is more true on this one. It is only 2.6 miles round trip. Terrick was fairly young when we hiked this one, and didn’t have any trouble. You are able to walk behind the waterfall which is a cool experience. We did get to see some black bears in the distance, too!
Laurel Falls. Laurel Falls is one of the most popular trails in the Smokies, so it can get pretty crowded. I would recommend going early. The trail is paved and is probably the easiest one we have hiked. Depending on how much time you spend at the falls, you can make it there and back in less than 2 hours. Of these five hikes (four with falls), Laurel Falls is the prettiest in my opinion. The falls are 80 feet high, and flow down into a stream at the bottom of the upper section. They continue under a walkway bridge and form the lower section. Great spot for pictures!
Baskins Creek Falls. Phew! This is definitely the most difficult hike we’ve taken in the Smokies, although it is rated as moderate as well. This is a good hike if you don’t like crowds, as it is not one of the most well known trails. Definitely take plenty of water and wear good shoes on this one! There are a few places you will need to use both hands to steady yourself going up or down some rocky areas. The waterfall at the end is neat, although getting closer to it is a little tricky. Let’s just say one of us ended up with some wet pants, socks & shoes. The trek back is mostly uphill, and we’re talking pretty steep. If you hike this in the winter or spring, there are some decent views of Gatlinburg at the beginning of the trail. We also spotted two deer on our hike. *Hint: Don’t cost yourself extra time looking for the Baskins Creek Falls sign (it doesn’t exist). The sign that says Baskins Creek Trails is indeed what you’re looking for.
Cucumber Gap. I think this may be my favorite of these five. There are two trail heads – Little River Trailhead or Jakes Creek Trailhead. We started on the Little River which literally runs parallel to the river. It was so peaceful, and this half of the trail is flat making it very easy. I love listening to the sound of the water flowing and watching it flow over the rocks. Beautiful! About an hour in, if you start on the Little River Trailhead, you come to a bridge and will see a stream that is fed by Huskey Branch Falls. Get off the beaten path just a little bit if you’re able and take the short climb to get a better view of the falls. Although not as large as some of the other falls in the park, they are worth seeing. The second half of the trail is a little more difficult, but not bad. There are a few exposed roots that you have to make sure you don’t get tripped up on. There are also a couple streams you have to cross which, for me, just makes it more fun! Be on the lookout for ruins of the early Elkmont settlers. At 5.6 miles and about three hours to complete, it is well worth the hike.
Read my other post on what to do in the Smokies here.